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Let's talk about the new spells in the new Near Space book! Xenocrat did a neat post over here back when the Character Operations Manual came out that helped to highlight problematic, fun, and not-so-fun new spells soon after the book came out. Now that Near Space is out, it's time to do the same.
Near Space has a lot fewer spells to talk about, but some of them are quite interesting!
Verdant Code (Witchwarper 1, Technomancer 1) - This one is in the ghoran section rather than with the rest of the spells. Quite a strange spell and quite tricky to parse how it works. You trigger a computer to sprout an enormous wave of sharp plant life that fills a really big area for a low level spell. A very potent damaging AoE spell for 1st level, but thanks to its targeting requirement, it can be difficult to get it to land (if targeting a foe's computer, they get an extra Will save to negate the spell entirely). The crowd control potential is also very high. Clever and prepared PCs can deal serious damage while also splitting up enemy parties when they successfully save. Very good as a 1st level spell. Maybe too good.
Acidic Mist (Mystic 1, Witchwarper 1) - Excellent area damage for a low level spell. In a tight environment, you may be able to trap enemies inside if your melee allies stand at the edges of the mist. The moment a creature takes more than one turn of damage from this spell, it starts way outperforming things like Overheat, which has trickier targeting, a smaller effective area, and only a single burst of damage. Doesn't block sight, so any enemies you trap inside are easy pickings.
Alter Enhancement (Witchwarper 2) - Very good tool for tackling unexpected challenges, but the duration means its effectively limited to combat. Can only swap to armor upgrades and fusions from the CRB, but that still gives you access to swapping between jetpacks and thermal capacitors, for example.
Daegoxian Spore Cloud (Mystic 3) - Doesn't block line of sight. Since fascinate breaks on observing an "obvious threat" and grants a new save when an enemy approaches, this may not control foes for very long, even if they fail their save.
Dampening Field (Everyone 2) - Very narrow spell. As far as I can find, there are currently two creatures whose only senses are blindsight (sound) or vibration. All other creatures have some other sense. Seemingly only useful in conjunction with invisibility to improve infiltration potential. Anyone have any clever ideas on how to use this?
Death Affinity (Mystic 3, Witchwarper 3) - Hoooo boy. Long duration and an enormous list of immunities and enhancement bonuses. The disadvantage of being targeted by effects that only target undead is relatively minor unless against well prepared opponents. The exhausted condition upon expiry can be cleared/reduced with a lesser restoration, conveniently also on the mystic list. Extremely powerful defensive buff.
Defrex Hardiness (Mystic 1) - For the low cost of a 1st level slot, this grants a scaling dollop of DR/- for minutes at a time while also providing a retributive effect every time the recipient is hit by an adjacent creature. Blows the Resistant Armor line of spells out of the water by granting more DR for a far lower level slot. Once you're at mid levels, there's no reason not to buff every ally not already suited up with the Enhanced Resistance feat, and refresh it whenever. Starfinder spell design previously has shied away from granting bonuses that scale with caster level, so this feels like a mistake that slipped through. Definitely in the too good category.
Junk Restraints (Technomancer 4) - Ouch. For a 4th level spell that requires set up (junk in range), this is a single target entangle spell that gets negated on a successful save. Since this doesn't specify that it holds the victim in place, a melee creature affected by it can even continue to fight while debuffed. Really quite awful. Compares incredibly unfavorably to the mystic spell Umbral Tendrils, which: doesn't require set up, affects an AoE, entangles on a failed save, and deals some damage too. Umbral Tendrils is also one level lower.
Junk Shard (Technomancer 1, Witchwarper 1) - I'm not sure why Paizo is so committed to the idea that technomancers should be about creating and reshaping junk... In any case, this spell deals average single target damage slightly worse than Mind Thrust, and on par with the standard action magic missile (after calculating expected rates of successful saving throw). Low range, but it leaves behind junk to combo with your other spells if you're a technomancer. Nothing mind blowing, but a fine low level damage spell.
Modify Outcome (Witchwarper 4) - Once 4th level slots are no longer premium slots (ie, once you have 6th level spells), you're always going to want to have a few of these. Almost free in terms of action economy, and activatable after you know an ally has failed. This kind of effect is tremendously strong insurance against disaster. Significantly better than the 3rd level Probability Prediction, since it is used reactively and only on a known failure.
Personal Gravity (Technomancer 2, Witchwarper 2) - While in zero-g, does this let you choose the orientation of your personal gravity? What if you move from one region of gravity to another? Do you choose again how it affects you? There are many such questions that will come up any time you use this spell. That said, its quite good. More or less eliminates having to make tricky skill checks to move competently in zero-g, lightens gravity to protect you from falls or help you jump, or even just helps you move on high gravity worlds. Probably best as a spell gem in your toolkit than as a known spell.
Planned Obsolescence (Witchwarper 3) - Slapping the archaic property on weapons reduces their damage by 5 against PCs. Not a bad debuff, but possibly not a very relevant one if the enemy has another weapon. Turning armor archaic removes its personal comm and environmental protections, in addition to deactivating its armor upgrades. Depending on the environment you're in, this can be a save or die due to its negation of radiation or toxic environment protection. One mode or the other will definitely have a use, which makes this a fairly solid spell.
Polar Vortex (Mystic 3, Witchwarper 3) - Note that the devs FAQ'd that this is a 3rd level spell. Same damage, range, and area (more or less) as explosive blast, but also: makes the area difficult terrain, blocks non-energy ranged weapon attacks (wind gives them a -8 penalty), ignores spell resistance, and serves to control flying creatures. The split damage type between bludgeoning and cold means it'll be resisted more often, but otherwise its a big upgrade over explosive blast, packing area control together with high damage. Poor explosive blast looks a little sad now.
Reanimate Construct (Mystic 4, Technomancer 4) - Since this functions as animate dead, I assume you have to pay the credit cost for animating creatures, even if it doesn't say so explicitly. It's unclear if you can reanimate a construct whose CR is higher than half your level. I assume not, since that's a restriction that's in animate dead. This may make it tricky to use this spell, as you're rarely fighting and destroying robots whose CRs are half your party level. Otherwise, a friendly low-CR robot slave is a great scout and poor combatant. A clever spellcaster can find a way to make good use of infinite duration allies like this :).
Summon Drift Beacons (Everyone 6) - It's a narrative shaping spell, either used by NPCs or used once a campaign by players in a big power-play moment where they summon their fleet of allies to engage the enemy fleet while they do something else. Cool, but not for general use.
Supercharge Armor (Technomancer 2) - Hardness doubling and light shedding is pretty unimpressive, but it grants a good amount of temporary hit points. Unfortunately, the low duration means trading a standard action in combat to negate or partially negate an enemy hit, and only if the creature you buffed is the one getting beaten up. Not great. Compares terribly to Defrex Hardiness (on the duration, spell level, and amount of damage potentially prevented fronts) but Defrex Hardiness is busted, so take that with a grain of salt. At high levels when you can prebuff and engage combats at your leisure, this becomes a staple thanks to its scaling temp HP and low spell level.
Mystics and Witchwarpers seem to have won out this time with some very solid defensive spells, and a few offensive ones that make the technomancer blasts look a little old and crusty. Only a few things that look immediately problematic. In my own games, I probably would want to ban Death Affinity and Defrex Hardiness.
So what do you guys think? What do you like? What are you concerned about existing out in the wild? What do you think will get ban hammered for SFS?